For the French, New Year Means Good Oysters France is Europe's top producer and consumer of oysters, the staple of French New Year celebrations. In Paris, restaurants and oyster stands display beautiful platters decorated with lemon wedges, as oysterman open the shellfish in front of customers. And unlike in America, oysters are never rinsed in France, the better to preserve the taste.
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For the French, New Year Means Good Oysters

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For the French, New Year Means Good Oysters

For the French, New Year Means Good Oysters

For the French, New Year Means Good Oysters

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France is Europe's top producer and consumer of oysters, the staple of French New Year celebrations. In Paris, restaurants and oyster stands display beautiful platters decorated with lemon wedges, as oysterman open the shellfish in front of customers. And unlike in America, oysters are never rinsed in France, the better to preserve the taste.

Francis Dubourg shucks oysters at his Oyster Shack in Paris. Eleanor Beardsley hide caption

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Eleanor Beardsley

Francis Dubourg shucks oysters at his Oyster Shack in Paris.

Eleanor Beardsley

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Eleanor Beardsley fills us in from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: In the heart of Paris's Montparnasse neighborhood, Francis Dubourg(ph) stands behind the bar in his restaurant, La Cabane a Huitres, or the Oyster Shack, shocking oysters and greeting customers. The 62-year-old fourth generation Oysterman farms his oysters in the Bay of Arcachon off France's Atlantic Coast and brings them to Paris where he serves them up four days a week. Dobourg says he is one of the last growers to raise oysters in the traditional way.

FRANCIS DOBOURG: (Through translator) My oysters are raised directly on the sand, the way it was done in the old days. They lie flat. They are not hanging bunch in bags. And this is very important because an oyster takes it properties from the sand, just like a good one absorbs the oil it's blended in.

BEARDSLEY: At a dozen simple tables in this small wood paneled room that smells like the sea, Dobourg's patrons enjoy his bountiful harvest. For Jean Gouse(ph) say, eating the sacred sea fruit is all about French culture.

JEAN GOUSE: We are having oysters for Christmas and for New Year's Eve. The tradition is that you have to eat oysters for feast. So if there are no oysters for New Year's Eve, for instance, something is missing.

BEARDSLEY: Oysters accompanied by white wine or champagne are eaten raw in France, scrapped out of their shells with tiny forks while still alive. Jean Pierre Stalla(ph), who comes here to enjoy oyster every week, says there are several schools of thought on eating them.

JEAN PIERRE STALLA: Unidentified Man: (Singing foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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